Getting to Know Jesus

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (doug88888/flickr)

James Martin, SJ, a Jesuit priest, editor at large of America magazine, and author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage (HarperOne, 2014), talks about the historical and spiritual Jesus.


James Martin, SJ

Comments [31]

Thanks, this is excellent!

We've tried an online faith sharing group with Fr. Martin, he's joined us from time to time to ask a question to facilitate the sharing. This is still a work in progress, if you'd like to join us in it, see

I'm going to post a link to this on the group now, would especially be interested in any comment you might have for us there or here about your experience with faith sharing, especially online faith sharing.

Apr. 23 2014 10:56 AM
John from NYC

It's nice and convenient for a Jesuit priest to reflect upon with genuine sentiments on his desire to reach out and help the poor as Jesus had done. When he references the horrible brutality of the crucifixion by invoking the highly controversial Mel Gibson movie, it becomes an expression of anger. Sure, it was a horrific barbaric act of cruelty, but Jesus was not the only person crucified. There were hundreds of thousands crucified by various powers in control of this troubled land by Romans, Greeks, Jews, yes Jews also crucified thousands.

So, dear Jesuit priest, sure Jesus was crucified, but don't stop there. The Mel Gibson movie pits the Jews as murderers of Jesus, but this contemptuous accusation is more a product of polemic posturing at that time due to fierce competition among religious cults eventually widening rifts between Jews who followed or didn't follow Jesus over decades and centuries. The years after the crucifixion, Paul converts gentiles into Jews and Jesus' family maintains strict Jewish values while following Jesus. So, if Jews were the vicious culprits as postured by Mel Gibson's movie, why is Paul converting gentiles to Jews?

Yes, the crucifixion was brutal as the priest says, but so are the many atrocities committed during that time, before and after which include Christians, Jews, Hellenists, Muslims, and yes even Jesuits. The crucifixion indeed was horrible, but what about the huge piles of severed heads and blood flowing through the streets of Jerusalem by Christians who "sanctified" Jerusalem with these innocent victims' blood? So, I'm getting a little tired of hearing about brutality against one man when so many others died equally or much worse.

As for the miracles, stop it please. It's nonsense so let's get beyond this and focus on the other portion of the message, helping the poor, spreading love and peace among your fellow man, being charitable and respectful. Dear priest, you don't need the miracles to feel these wonderful thoughts even if Jesus did perform them.

A final disappointment dear priest, is the lack of inclusion of another faith when Passover this year coincides with Easter. Dear priest, you should have been able to practice what you preach and show kindness and respect by expressing inclusion towards Jews celebrating Passover, a biblical passage respected by Christians, instead, you choose to invoke Mel Gibson who clearly expresses hatred.

Yes, go ahead priest and meditate and reflect on your personal Jesus, but get this through your head, Jesus was a Jew who practiced Judaism, did his pilgrimages to Jerusalem, was very conversant with Jewish laws, had a Jewish family, and preached Jewish values like, helping the poor, spreading love and peace among his fellow man, being charitable and respectful towards his fellow man.

Apr. 21 2014 10:53 PM
mike from long island

i have a few questions. why did God choose to show himself, and all his supposed power, the son of God, and all that other stuff, at the point in our history when we were the most vulnerable and frightened? no sign of anything from him as we became more aware of our physical surroundings. no fear of thunder, wind, lightning and all the things god is supposedly responsible for.

why is an earthquake that kills thousand of people not gods fault, but one baby survives in the rubble, and its a miracle??

god is like the boss from hell. everything good is because of him, everything bad is out fault. our supposed " free will" .

how can believers tell you with absolute certainty the " truth", but ask them one sensible question and they say " thats one of gods mysteries".

christianity is like a mafia protection racket. they come to your store and tell you that for money, they can protect you from fires, vandalism, etc . if you dont pay, they are the ones doing the damage. god says believe in me, and i'll save you from hell, and PS , if you dont, i'm the one putting you there. are you kidding??

i also liken it to the way pedophiles operate. pedophiles seek out the vulnerable, and build up a relationship where the victim feels soothed, then wham!! christianity is the same thing, its designed to make you feel bad about yourself. first you hear how it will make all your troubles go away. no friends? jesus is your friend. oh, you have friends? jesus will heal your marriage. happily married? oh, jesus will solve your financial problems. got a good job,no worries? then PS- you are going to hell. original sin?? a minute old baby is already condemded? how low can you sink to suck someone in ???

as we got smarter, the message changes. less superstition, more psycological pressure. now they have the nerve to bend their creation nonsence into " creative design" ? what a joke.

heaven is the greatest place every . use your wildest imagination, and you can only scratch the surface of how awesome it is. hell? use your wildest imagination, and you can only scratch the surface of how awful it is. when someone tell you one thing is super awesome, the alternative super terrible, you know its BS.

the devil?? the best way to get people to worship you is to create a common enemy. its right out of the playbook. every dictator, maniac, and lowlife has done it, all thru history.

its all about control. control peoples fears, and you control them. control equals money and power. its always about money.

finally, whet makes us so self important that we have to believe we move on after death? we need to believe it so bad we make up the biggest nonsense story in human history, to the point we are willing to kill???

it makes me very sad.

Apr. 21 2014 07:13 PM
Francis from Pa

What a relief to hear the antidote to Brian's mediocrity: Lopate today-- "Deniers, Believers, and the Enemies of Science"

Apr. 21 2014 12:31 PM
henry from md

@JJ: Agree - this program was interesting for what it delivered but as porous as Swiss cheese for what it left out: the thousands years of persecution of Jews fomented by Christian authorities which prepared the ground for the Holocaust. Too terrible to look this fact in the eye, isn't it?

Apr. 21 2014 12:30 PM
linda cohen from Staten Island, NY

Recently I walked through a forest of the very oldest living trees in NYC. I felt a miraculous grace that for me was God. This was on the grounds of the oldest Jesuit Retreat House in America called Mount Manresa. Unfortunately, that forest that took God centuries to make was sliced down in less than 2 days last week. I wonder how religious leaders allow God's creation to come to this. This makes me feel more connected to God and so much less connected to our religious leaders.

Apr. 21 2014 12:04 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

The first two words in the Hebrew Bible:

Bereshis B(a)RA....

BaRA: Ben Ruach Abba

Apr. 21 2014 12:00 PM
fuva from harlemworld

Again, not a Christian. But seems that Jesus' activism is critical to his message. Which is why we require a "religion" that emphasizes and supports the principles conducive to justice today: informed civism, discipline/self-control/humility, agency and exertion.

Apr. 21 2014 12:00 PM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

nick uws - "...Yeah, but someone who believes unquestioningly in the existence of this personage despite zero evidence other than something written in an ancient book is someone not to pay attention to."............


Apr. 21 2014 11:59 AM
JJ from NYC

The Mel Gibson movie is so anti-semetic, Mel Gibson's father is a holocaust denier.
There is another discussion topic wnyc skipped the role of faith in the systematic and historic persecution of Jews in the name of Jesus, also a Jew.

Apr. 21 2014 11:59 AM

if jesus is god, how can he be god's son? the trinity is a poor excuse for having no answer to this conundrum.

Apr. 21 2014 11:58 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

j garbuz - what are you blabbering about? nonsensical foolishness....

Apr. 21 2014 11:57 AM

There is no discussion of the historical Jesus in this program.

This called said "what did jesus do with his 34 years on this earth." yes what did he do with all the years before his ministry? make furniture?

Apr. 21 2014 11:56 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

To Nick

Any father who sees his son being raised by another man has sacrificed his son.

Apr. 21 2014 11:56 AM

"I came not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" - Jesus

Preaches to anyone. Comes to the temple on an ass (symbol of king). Causes havoc at the temple. Pisses off power structure. Gets arrested and executed. Cults spring up over hyping his life and making up stories that take Rome by storm (hundreds of years).

Sounds like a failed revolutionary uplifted to myth.

Apr. 21 2014 11:53 AM
Nick from UWS

I don't know any fathers, in my entire life, who "sacrificed" their sons for anything, have no idea where such an act would be acceptable in present society, and to do so would be one of the ultimate acts of narcissism and sociopathy.

Apr. 21 2014 11:52 AM
oscar from ny

Remember that the lord makes everything perfect..Jesus was a carpenter because he will unite the finisher and make things new and beautiful

Apr. 21 2014 11:51 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

Only a father who has sacrificed his son can deeply understand the Jesus story.

Apr. 21 2014 11:49 AM
Tony from Canarsie

Frankly, my "imaginative prayer" is that someday people will stop believing in superstition.

Apr. 21 2014 11:48 AM
Pam from ny

Bri- You've just taken the show over the cliff. Enough of your "spiritual"/religious journey!

Apr. 21 2014 11:47 AM

Jesus the person was a revolutionary rebellion leader who failed to free his people from Roman oppression. In some ways, a terrorist (his disruption at the temple).

Apr. 21 2014 11:47 AM
jgarbuz from Queens

My best friends in Israel were American missionaries including a Jewish convert who for years was trying to baptize me. After my divorce, when I lost my son, they almost succeeded in doing so. But I really learned to understand the Christian connection to Jesus and what it means for a father to sacrifice his son to save somebody. I didn't become a Christian but at least I did really get to understand the emotional connection to the story of the supreme sacrifice of a son by his father for some hoped for greater good.

PS, During WWII my mother was hidden and saved by true Christians at the risk of their lives. Most Holocaust survivors told me that they could never have done the same if it were the other way around. So the belief in Jesus and the supreme sacrifice really motivates true Christians in ways that many of the rest of us find hard to understand.

Apr. 21 2014 11:47 AM

Dying and resurrecting wasn't limited to Jesus. Many religions existed with gods doing this even before ancient Egypt. Physical death and physical resurrection isn't a reality in any of them. They are often metaphorical.

Apr. 21 2014 11:45 AM
Nick from UWS

"Well, someone who does miracle and heals the sick and rises from the dead is someone to pay attention to." Yeah, but someone who believes unquestioningly in the existence of this personage despite zero evidence other than something written in an ancient book is someone not to pay attention to.

Apr. 21 2014 11:45 AM
blacksocialist from BKbaby

what an utterly ridiculous intro, is jesus 70% or 30% real?.... how about he is as real as the spaghetti monster.... this show keeps on doubling down on stupid....

Apr. 21 2014 11:44 AM
J C from NYC

Corrected spelling Reza Aslan and the book is Zealot [Random House].
Anyone pursuing Jesus needs to read this book.

Also, recently there has been talk of JC's WIFE!
IS this true?
Ancient scripts certainly point to him having a wife, surely there were offspring if that is true...
He was a Jewish Man living in the time of Roman occupation of Israel - Jews followed certain customs as marrying and having children and eating the Passover meal [JC's Last Supper].

Apr. 21 2014 11:21 AM

John A
Yes I am aware those links. Unfortunately, there is little contemporary references to Jesus. Josephus the Jewish historian mentions Jesus but it is believed by scholars to be an add on by later Christians.

Apr. 21 2014 11:10 AM
John A

Wikipedia I rediscovered last week has many many interlocking pages on the early history of the church, yes, with pointers to whatever original source can be found, including those sources that are many years after the fact (fabrication?), with those not.

Apr. 21 2014 11:04 AM

I find it interesting that for one of the most recognized names in the world there is little historical record regarding Jesus.

Apr. 21 2014 10:58 AM
Robert from NYC

Oh no not again. It's all these same chatter-heads on every show. Please stop it, STOP IT!! How much can intelligent people take of this nonsense! I turned the show off after 5 minutes and went elsewhere but I just have to watch the comments page to see where this is going and it ain't pretty, I'll tell ya that!!

Apr. 21 2014 10:40 AM
J C from NYC

You could At Least have invited Rasa Aslan to demystify Most if not ALL of what we think is true of JC.

Apr. 21 2014 10:24 AM

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